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State begins drive to restore Aberdare

BUSINESS
By | August 25th 2009

By Antony Gitonga

The Government has reintroduced the controversial shamba system (non-residential forest farming) in the Aberdare Forest to save the water tower.

Kenya Forest Service says 573 hectares of Geta Forest would be used under the Plantation Establishment Livelihood Improvement Scheme (Pelis), a variant of the shamba system criticised by conservationists.

KFS deputy head in charge of Central Highland Conservancy Elizabeth Wambugu said guidelines are in place on the areas to be cultivated and the type of crops to be planted.

"This will help increase survival rates of the seedlings and improve quality at the natural forest," she said.

Ms Wambugu said only 18 per cent would be under cultivation, and allayed fears the Pelis project was a threat to the forest.

She said illegal exploitation of forest products posed the biggest threat to conservation.

With reports that half of the rivers flowing from the forest had dried up, Wambugu said a draft management plan to conserve North Kinangop Forest has been formulated.

Resource utilisation

She said the plan, once approved, would enhance sustainable use of the natural resource.

Speaking during a two-day consultative meeting with stakeholders at a Naivasha hotel, she said the forest formed the larger part of the Aberdare Forest ecosystem.

"North Kinangop Forest reserve is an important watershed which maintains water quality, quantity, and regulates flows within Malewa drainage system," she added.

The forest, she said, has a great diversity of eco-tourism yet to be exploited. The area has high eco-tourism potential due to its proximity to the Aberdare National Park tourism circuit.

A logging ban, she added, had made it difficult to determine the future management of the plantations.

Head of Conservancy Central Highlands John Wachihi said they were in the process of formulating guidelines on areas where eucalyptus trees could be planted.

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